Southern Kings v Cardiff Blues | Guinness Pro14 | Saturday 28th September 2019
The 2019/20 Guinness Pro14 season gets underway this weekend, with Cardiff Blues heading out to South Africa to take on the Southern Kings.
The game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth will kick-off at 3pm UK time, and will be shown live on Premier Sports 2 at the Arms Park Clubhouse.
Here's all the information you need ahead of the game...
It's been an interesting pre-season for the Southern Kings who have been heavily involved in pre-World Cup warm-ups.
They started with a 24-20 defeat at the hands of Georgia, before losing back-to-back games against Namibia, with respective 21-17 and 28-22 scorelines.
Cardiff Blues, on the other hand, have only played the single pre-season game against English Championship side Bedford Blues, winning 14-39 at Goldington Road.
There was also the Celtic Cup game against Dragons A which was seen as a pre-season friendly, with Cardiff Blues A securing a 40-31 victory.
Southern Kings 12-45 Cardiff Blues - 14/04/2018
Cardiff Blues 26-19 Southern Kings - 02/03/2019
Cardiff Blues have a 100% record over the South African side since they entered the league at the beginning of the 2017/18 season. In fact, the Southern Kings have only won three times in 42 games during that time.
The first win came at the end of 17/18 campaign, when Willis Halaholo, Kirby Myhill, Alex Cuthbert, Seb Davies, Blaine Scully, Josh Turnbull scored in Port Elizabeth, before Olly Robinson, Nick Williams, Owen Lane and Jason Harries scored at a cold and wet Arms Park last March.
As seems to be normal at the South African sides there was a huge player turnover over the summer, with 21 players departing and 19 arriving, two of those being Jerry Sexton, brother of Irish fly-half Johnny, and experienced fly-half Demetri Catrakilis, who both start on Saturday.
JC Astle will once again captain the side from the second row, while winger Yaw Penxe starts after being one of the top try scorers in the Pro14 last season.
On the Cardiff Blues side Nick Williams will lead the team out, with Kris Dacey on the bench and Ellis Jenkins injured, but there is better fitness news as Lloyd Williams starts after being injured during pre-season.
Jarrod Evans returns after missing out on the Wales World Cup squad, while Olly Robinson will make his 50th appearance for the region. Will Boyde could make his debut off the bench, while it would be Jason Tovey's second debut if he comes on.
Southern Kings: Andell Loubser, Christopher Hollis, Howard Mnisi, John-Thomas Jackson, Yaw Penxe, Demetri Catrakilis, Stefan Ungerer; Alulutho Tshakweni, Alandre Van Rooyen, Pieter Scholtz, Jerry Sexton, John-Charles Astle (c), Martinus Burger, Arthur de Wee, Lusanda Badiyana
Replacements: Jacques Du Toit, Xandre Vos, Rossouw De Klerk, Aston Fortuin, Elrigh Louw, Josh Allderman, Bader Pretorius, Sibusiso Sithole
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan, Jason Harries, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Aled Summerhill, Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Brad Thyer, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams (c)
Replacements: Kris Dacey, Corey Domachowski, Scott Andrews, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Will Boyde, Lewis Jones, Jason Tovey, Harri Millard
Player to watch
For the Southern Kings, while Penxe is the try scorer, the signing of Catrakilis may well be the most important for the South Africans as they try to avoid finishing bottom of their Conference three seasons in a row.
The 30-year-old started his career in the Western Province before spending a year at Stormers, two campaigns at Montpellier and, most recently, two seasons at Harlequins. He now returns in a bid to provide the game management the Kings have been lacking.
On the Cardiff Blues side it is Willis Halaholo who supporters should be keeping an eye on, after his comments in a superb interview on Cardiff Blues: Uncovered during pre-season.
Noting he perhaps wasn't consistently at his best last year, the man who has recently become a father for the fourth time vowed to be better this year, a scary prospect for defences across the Pro14!
What the coaches said
“Cardiff Blues have a very experienced pack and have a lot of old heads in their backline as well. They have an exceptionally good coach in John Mulvihill. It will be a good test, particularly for our young players who will get their first opportunity in the Guinness PRO14.
“A good start is quite important for us, but I think what is more important is the manner in which we play.
“We have seen some progression after an incredibly tough tour of Georgia and Namibia. The results were not entirely important. The fact that we were out of our comfort zone, also we were playing against World Cup opposition and testing certain combinations was important.”
Robbi Kempson - Southern Kings Interim Head Coach
“With a longer than usual build-up to the season we have prepared really well for this weekend and are really looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“We have had a good look at the Kings and they’ve warmed up with games against Namibia and Georgia so they will be well prepared. They beat Glasgow and Edinburgh, drew with the Dragons and ran a lot of teams very close at home so we are well aware of how dangerous they can be.
“They play an exciting brand of rugby and can hurt you if the game is loose. We know they will come out firing on Saturday, but we have a game-plan we believe in. There is a lot of excitement in this group and if we can play to our potential and deliver on our game plan we can get that win, which will set our season off nicely.”
John Mulvihill - Cardiff Blues Head Coach
Scottish referee Mike Adamson will be in the middle for this one. A former Glasgow Warrior and Scottish 7s international, he is entering his fourth season as a Pro14 official.
He has refereed five Cardiff Blues games in the Pro14, with two losses and three defeats coming, most recently the controversial encounter away at Connacht towards the end of last season.